Public Sector


City of Salinas, California

City of Salinas
"In addition to saving millions of dollars in energy and maintenance costs, this ambitious initiative will help to revitalize neighborhoods, build regional collaboration and reduce the City’s impact on the environment, all of which are critical to the long-term health and sustainability of our city and the Salinas Valley as a whole."
- Joe Gunter, Mayor, City of Salinas

The Opportunity

Known for its marine climate, ideal for the floral industry, grape vineyards, and vegetable growers, Salinas, California, supports a vibrant and large agriculture industry. The City of Salinas wished to reduce gas, water and electric consumption and greenhouse gas emissions through upgrading aging infrastructure. City leaders also wanted to ensure a long-term plan for future operational savings through preventative maintenance to preserve equipment and save time for maintenance staff. Realizing this project was an opportunity to save valuable dollars from the City’s General Fund, City leaders were also interested in ways to generate electricity for revenue. In November 2013, the Salinas City Council approved the proposal for a citywide energy efficiency program and selected OpTerra Energy Services to complete program development, design and implementation.

The Partnership

The unique, comprehensive program included installing 3.5 megawatts of solar PV power at seven sites throughout Salinas, including at the Industrial Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Municipal Airport, and Sherwood Hall. The solar systems were installed atop parking lots and ground mounted on unused city land to generate electricity to power dozens of City-owned facilities. A unique aspect of this program is that some solar energy generated also powers a nearby pump run by the Regional Water Pollution Control Agency. The solar energy produces new streams of revenue for the City and promotes interaction between public agencies, expanding regional collaborations.

The City updated all streetlights and public park light fixtures to modern, LED fixtures in a short construction time, creating minimal inconveniences on roadways and public spaces. The LED fixtures help the City save energy while also producing brighter, whiter lighting to enhance neighborhood safety. In addition, the City also made several capital upgrades to its publicly owned facilities to reduce ongoing operation and maintenance costs, as well as energy usage. Improvements included much-needed electrical servicing and mechanical upgrades to the City’s Industrial Wastewater Treatment Facility and modernizing HVAC systems at the Municipal Airport, Steinbeck Public Library, and the City’s Permit Center. By improving air-conditioning and overall air quality, facilities provide better comfort for patrons while also reducing ongoing energy and maintenance costs.

The comprehensive program did not require the City to invest any General Fund dollars. Instead, the City leveraged ongoing energy and maintenance savings and energy conservation rebates to pay for new equipment. The City immediately felt substantial savings from the program—in the first year, the City expects to save more than $1 million on its utility bill.

The Impact

The wide-ranging energy program is expected to save taxpayers more than $22 million over the next 25 years, with no capital investment. Salinas residents enjoy the comforts of improved infrastructure including brighter and more efficient lighting, better ventilation and temperature controls at busy public spaces such as the Steinbeck Library and the local Airport. Additionally, City leaders preserved the integrity of the new equipment by thoroughly training maintenance staff on the proper use and management of the new technology. The program also stimulated the local economy by directly creating 50 local jobs in construction and administration associated with the project.

The City of Salinas accomplished long-held goals, most notably saving millions of public dollars that can be reinvested into boosting public safety services and strengthening the local economy. The City has generated revenue with solar power, revitalized neighborhoods, built regional collaboration, and reduced the community’s impact on the environment, all of which will have lasting positive effects for the entire Salinas Valley region.

The Technical Scope

  • Installed 3.5 MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) power across seven City sites
  • Mechanical upgrades at the Industrial Wastewater Treatment Plant including new electric mixers and controls to reduce operation and energy consumption
  • Retrofitted or replaced over 14,000 interior and exterior lights to high-efficiency LED fixtures
  • Removed and replaced primary HVAC equipment
  • Upgraded existing or installed new energy management systems at various City facilities
City of Salinas